Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 cements these bunch of a-holes as the crown jewels of the MCU in a visually impressive sequel, jam packed with laugh-your-ass-off humour and oozing in heart.
We find Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) hired by The Sovereign to deal with an inter-dimensional monster and without giving too much away, they find themselves on the run until they find help in the shape of Ego, The Living Planet. A celestial being who claims he’s Peter’s father…
On the face of it, when Guardians arrived in 2014 it looked a gamble. In some style it quickly proved that it was anything but, expanding the MCU quite literally, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who had it as one of their favourite films.
Fast forward three years, the element of surprise is gone and it’s been replaced with the pressure of big expectations.
James Gunn takes them on and duly smashes them in a triumphant sequel which, although it does go bigger, it also recognises that its greatest strength comes in the shape of its characters. And that’s why it succeeds.
With the Guardians established, Gunn full utilises a vast, weird and wonderful universe, taking us new planets and new places. At times, it’s visually gorgeous with a myriad of spellbinding colours and new races. The first hour is packed full of that, fantastic character moments and heaps of humour that hits the mark.
Right from the off, it plasters a smile on your face in ingenious style as the opening credits roll. We get to see what Baby Groot is all about as the new Awesome Mix kicks off with a personal favourite of mine.
It’s a genius move and if you had any doubts, they’re immediately gone.
…it also recognises that its greatest strength comes in the shape of its characters. And that’s why it succeeds.
Being honest, Vol. 2 probably doesn’t need a villain. It probably doesn’t really need much of a plot. Gunn and his cast have such a good handle over the characters, you could just watch Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Baby Groot travelling around the galaxy, wise-cracking, bickering and sassing one another for two and a bit hours and it’d be well worth the price of your cinema ticket. You’d be hard pushed to find a bunch of genuinely likeable characters more fun to spend time with.
Pratt and Saldana bounce off one another really well with genuine chemistry, while Bautista is simply inspired as Drax. Cooper embodies Rocket with all the snark and heart required to make a talking raccoon work on the big screen while Baby Groot, if you don’t want a Baby Groot after watching Vol. 2 you must have a heart of stone.
Elsewhere, Michael Rooker and Karen Gillan are given more and indeed, deeper, stuff to do as Yondu and Nebula respectively which is both welcome and works.
There’s three main newcomers, Pom Klementieff who is ridiculously endearing as Mantis, Elizabeth Debicki as Ayesha, High Priestess of the Sovereign, whose voice I could quite possibly listen to all day long but the biggest of the newbies is Kurt Russell as Ego. First things first, Russell is expertly casted and a fitting father for Quill while it’s his arrival that really anchors the film thematically as Vol. 2 fully begins to explore family.
Everyone gets their moment. Everyone has a chance to develop. Everyone is suitably explored. It’s a lot of things to juggle and at times, it may not fit together all that smoothly, but it’s all genuine and it does feel earned.
Sure, Guardians has laugh yourself stupid moments but when it goes with the emotional beats, it hits them. It nails these character moments, exploring family in several different ways.
It’s truly effective storytelling, showing us just why we care for this weird and wonderful bunch.
Everyone gets their moment. Everyone has a chance to develop. Everyone is suitably explored.
Ego’s arrival also sees the ramping up of the plot, and does lead to the eventual reveal of the villain, and it perhaps doesn’t all mesh together quite as well as it did back in 2014. It feels a script which is juggling a great many things and for the most part, it manages it. However, it’s particularly evident in the increasingly outlandish final act. It’s a wild set piece which in fairness, adheres to convention but perhaps doesn’t meet the mark the rest of the film has. Mind you, it’s capped with a wonderful character moment which shows Guardians can make us laugh and indeed do quite the opposite in the blink of an eye.
Elsewhere, some of the sub plots feel a little jammed in which render things a tad bloated, but it doesn’t really blemish things whatsoever. It just means Vol. 2 isn’t quite perfect (though it’s pretty damn close). But for all the fun you’ve had, and continue to have, and that real heart that anchors the film throughout, you can overlook it.
At one stage, the Guardians may have been a gamble. Now? They’re a winning formula. Vol. 2 does go bigger, it may threaten to get a little cluttered here and there, but its a joy of a sequel. It is the funniest film of the MCU and indeed, one of the best.
There’s only a handful of films I’d consider a second trip to the cinema for, Vol. 2 is easily one of them.